Willie Rennie backs all women shortlists

Willie Rennie has announced that he supports the use of all women shortlists and quotas to improve the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ appalling record on gender balance. He is to lead a group which will draw up specific proposals for the 2019 European, 2020 Westminster and 2021 Holyrood elections.

The Scottish Party looked on in shock when members in the North East did not place highly effective Justice Spokesperson at the top of the list when it was selected at the end of last year. Since then, and particularly following the General Election, there have been strong calls for much stronger action on gender balance. Willie has consulted widely within the party and he announced his plans at the Scottish Party’s and Scottish Liberal Democrat Women’s Everyday Sexism Open Mic event in Edinburgh yesterday.

The Working Group to be led by Willie will consider all options including:

•         All women shortlists

•         Making gender a part of the party’s electoral strategy

•         Quota systems

Willie said:

I have lost patience with the current system and its inability to ensure proper representation of women.  It is now time to take the necessary action to deliver change.

A fresh start for the Liberal Democrats requires us to change.  We need to be more reflective of the people we seek to represent and to perform at our best we need to deploy our best people to make the case for our cause.

Despite an abundance of talented women the party has been unable to put enough in positions to get elected.   It is difficult to make the case for opportunity for everyone when only one of our parliamentarians is a woman.

Twenty years ago my party agreed in the Constitutional Convention to work towards a gender balance in our Scottish Parliamentary representation. Yet since the Scottish Parliament was created we have elected no more than two women at the four elections to Holyrood.   I determined to finally deliver the commitment made to the Constitutional Convention.

Encouragement and organisational support is simply insufficient to overcome the barriers to electing women.

That is why I will lead a working group to finalise proposals to put to the Spring Conference of the Scottish Liberal Democrats that will break down those barriers and increase the representation of women Liberal Democrats in Parliament.

It is my intention that the new arrangements will be in place for the European Election in 2019 and will also apply to the 2020 General Election and 2021 Scottish Parliamentary Election.

The Scottish Party has historically been very resistant to the idea of any mechanism to ensure fair representation of women. They refused to entertain the idea of zipping for either the European Elections or the Scottish Parliament elections in 1999. Although Elspeth Attwool was elected as MEP, the situation in the Scottish Parliament was dire with only 2 women out of 17 MSPs up until 2007, 2 out of 16 between 2007-11 and 1 out of 5 since 2011.

Willie’s proposals will be controversial, but it will be impossible for opponents to argue that the status quo is working. The argument often used by those opponents is that they want people selected on “merit” as if the current system guaranteed that the best people came top. In fact, in a timely blog for the Women 5050 campaign, Edinburgh University’s Dr Meryl Kenny provides evidence that quota systems and all women shortlists actually ensure that candidates are of higher quality.

Those who oppose quotas will often claim that of course they would like to see more women in politics, but they would prefer that candidates for political office be chosen on the basis of ‘merit’.  This, they will tell you, is about fairness and objectivity – one should always (to paraphrase Yes Minister) strive to appoint the ‘best man for the job, regardless of sex.’

The underlying assumption here is, of course, that women have less ‘merit’ than men – in other words, that quotas promote inexperienced and unqualified women at the expense of their more meritorious male counterparts. But, there is very little research evidence (either in the UK or comparatively) to suggest that this is the case. Studies focused on political experience and backgrounds, for example, have found little evidence of a ‘qualifications gap’ between quota and non-quota women and men – in fact, the opposite has been observed in several cases, with women candidates and MPs sometimes possessing stronger credentials than their male counterparts (providing support to the old adage that women have to be twice as good to get half as far…). Meanwhile studies of parliamentary behaviour suggest that ‘quota women’ are just as effective as menonce they are in office and that they have equally successful career trajectories. Finally, while quotas may be unpopular with the public, voters do not penalise women candidates at the ballot box, and quotas don’t lose votes.

He also risks annoying those people who want action now, not to wait another 4 years for change. Many people feel that the party risks electing no women at all next year. The most likely prospects are Christine Jardine who has been selected for Aberdeenshire East, Alison McInnes who, on a good day, might get elected on the North East list (although it’s almost impossible for her and Christine both to be elected) and Katy Gordon in the West of Scotland, but it’s far from assured that any of them will succeed.

In terms of the 2016 election, Willie’s hands were tied by a decision of the Scottish Party Executive in 2013 by just one vote  to select the regional  lists before the 2015 General Election. I was one of those voting against early selection because I wanted to give us more time to attract a more diverse range of candidates. I also believe that for list selections the longer you have prospective candidates working in the region as they pursue that top spot, the better. I still think it was a mistake to select the lists so early. However, we are where we are. A selection process carried out according to the rules would be very difficult to overturn and would be open to challenge. Believe me, it has been looked at from every single angle. While there may be a will to take action sooner, doing so peaceably and in a way that doesn’t wreck our campaign for next year is simply not possible.

Willie’s more long-term approach should ensure balanced representation in all three parliaments within 6 years. The Scottish Party cannot afford to flunk this. We will look very stupid if we do not agree to Willie’s considered proposals.

 

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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57 Comments

  • I’m terminally disappointed that the Scottish party is not offering the same training to minority groups as has taken place in England. That seems to me to have been successful where nearly half of hand over seats were women candidates. I hope that continues, and it should be started in Scotland alongside any positive action.

    Whilst I’m in favour of zipping, like we did for the first euro elections, I’m not in favour of all woman short lists. Either way, when they run out they return to the old way, so to rememphasise my point yes to some action, no to it being the only thing

  • Siobhan Mathers 23rd Aug '15 - 3:00pm

    I very much welcome Willie’s action on this important matter. I’m not a massive fan of quotas per se but I think that all other methods have been tried. We’re now in a position where things are likely to get worse in 2016 before they get better. To not improve gender balance would make us look out of touch with the modern world.

    It’s over-optimistic, however, to say that this will automatically lead to gender balanced representation in all parliaments within 6 years. Unless we are winning new territory, or men currently at the top of lists retire from politics, there is unlikely to be improvement in gender balance. This has to be part of the LibDem fightback.

  • Simon McGrath 23rd Aug '15 - 3:01pm

    “The Scottish Party looked on in shock when members in the North East did not place highly effective Justice Spokesperson at the top of the list”
    “However, we are where we are. A selection process carried out according to the rules would be very difficult to overturn and would be open to challenge. Believe me, it has been looked at from every single angle”
    So the reaction of the Scottish Party grandees to a decision by the members they don’t like is to try to overturn it. And this in a democratic party

  • Siobhan Mathers 23rd Aug '15 - 3:08pm

    Bob, we do have training for women in Scotland and half of handover seats (I out of 2) selected a woman. But we still have no female MPs and are likely to have none in 2016 with only 1 woman out of 8 at the top of a regional list. So the training and mentoring approach has been tried and hasn’t worked.

    The Scottish Party, in contrast to the rest of the UK, opted not to zip our Euro list.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Aug '15 - 3:34pm

    The way to make quotas work is to make them more than about gender and to have a look at all of the CVs first. Labour do a lot of this, but they don’t really admit it. People say that if they know a very good woman is in a local party then an All Women Shortlist will be imposed and it also seems that party favourites such as sons of former Labour leaders and cabinet ministers seem to be exempt.

  • Jacquie Bell 23rd Aug '15 - 3:44pm

    I was for a long time Chair of SWLD now SLDW. For over a decade improvements have been sought without success.
    I remember the pink T shirt revolt of 2001 which led to cgb. People like Candy have offered training but wome’s representation has moved backwards. With zipping I would have been number 2 on the 2014 European list for Yorks and the Humber. The final straw has been son going through systems for another party. I am a better if not as good MSP as him but after over 20 year of work am failing. beajse of the party I represent. Positive action is needed.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 23rd Aug '15 - 4:04pm

    Simon, we looked at whether it would be desirable to run the lists again to give the new members a say and to improve diversity. The move to do so did not come from “party grandees” but from the grass roots.

  • Simon McGrath 23rd Aug '15 - 4:04pm

    @Jacquie – why do you think that purely because of your gender the democratic decision of party members in Yorks and Humber should be overturned and you should have replaced the person who was elected second ?

  • Simon McGrath 23rd Aug '15 - 4:06pm

    @caron – thanks for replying – if the members don’t vote the way you like the first time they will have to vote over and over again until they get it right

  • paul barker 23rd Aug '15 - 4:46pm

    Well, this is better than nothing but there does seem to be a general problem of The Party having to put up with weird decisions by commitees -we in London are going to have a choice btween Caroline Pidgeon & Caroline Pidgeon as our mayoral candidate – a commitee has spoken.

  • Jo Christie-Smith 23rd Aug '15 - 5:47pm

    Can I just point out to Bob at the top of the comments that women are not a minority group?

    Good news on the AWS & quotas in Scotland – whilst all of could do with more training in all sorts of things, I’ve always passionately resented the idea that women’s lack of power in the Lib Dems is down to a lack of qualification that just a bit more training can address.

  • Simon Foster 23rd Aug '15 - 9:16pm

    Good to see my old boss Willie Rennie acting on this.

    The facts speak for themselves on the number of women elected – there is a clear unconscious bias against female candidates in the system, and that needs tackling.

    Any man commenting on this should really check their privilege, and consider whether they’d put up with a system that only elects 1 out of 5 male candidates if the situation was reversed.

    People scream about positive discrimination, but the fact of the matter is that widespread negative discrimination is clearly occurring against women, and that it needs to be tackled. Hardly surprising that Willie has “lost patience” with the current situation and is looking at all options.

    We need to go right to the roots of this though. I’ve just observed part of the Liberal Youth conference in Birmingham where 31% of the attendees appeared to be women, up from 22% last year the organisation informs me. The LY Executive are aware of the problem and are acting on it. They deserve our support and encouragement – we should do all we can as a party to get more women into politics, right from the beginning, IMHO.

  • Really pleased to see that Willie Rennie is taking steps to stop the party being quite so “Pale,Male and Stale” in Scotland. I welcome any steps to have a party that is more relevant and real to the electorate, but worry that we will get bogged down in taking years to get this through our governance procedures. We have had a great surge in new membership, but sadly these new supporters will have no say in the choice of candidates. I can see it is too late to make any changes now without opening us up to the risk of legal challenge etc, but please can we learn from the mistake and be smarter about when we select candidates, and please let us get this sensible suggestion adopted as quickly as possible.

  • Can’t comment on the parliamentary process but getting women candidates at my council level has been very difficult. We try very hard to find women stand in target seats but have been fairly un-successful. Most of our councillors are white, middle aged or older and male. We can’t go for all women short lists or we would not stand candidates in key wards. We have about even numbers male and female members, any suggestions welcome.

  • Willie its a bit late in the day this conversion to supporting women in the Lib Dems as you are likely to lose your seat to the SNP at next years Scottish Elections , nonetheless there is a 50/50 chance that the SNP candidate may be a woman , so if this is the case at least your final gesture will be standing aside for a woman in politics well done Willie.

  • Jane Ann Liston 24th Aug '15 - 9:51am

    Hallo again, Will. Perhaps you were unaware that the SNP have selected a male candidate for North East Fife, as have the Tories. So your prediction of Willie being replaced by a woman is unlikely.

    Yours still most politely

    Jane

  • John Barrett 24th Aug '15 - 11:48am

    One of the consequences of losing so many MPs, MSPs, MEPs councillors etc. since 2010 is that while there may still be a gender imbalance at all levels, the reduced number of male imcumbents allows for a group of new candidates to win in target seats, if we can win them.

    The problem at future elections is likely to be determined much more by our ability to win back formerly held seats at all levels, by anyone, regardless of the gender of the candidate fighting the seat.

    If a few of our MPs stand down next time and we have four new female MPs, it will not be a success if we still only have 8 MPs, even if 50% of them are women.

    I have never been convinced that replacing a privately educated male MP who was a lawyer with a privately educated female lawyer who holds much the same views on most issues, actually moves the party forward in any meaningful way.

    When I was an Edinburgh city Councillor, the Lib-Dem council group, without any outside pressure was exactly 50% male and 50% female. Most of the female councillors, who were all able and capable of being elected including the group leader (who went on to lead the Council administration), did not wish to fight parliamentary seats, while most of the men did. Hopefully things have moved on from then in awareness of the problem, but in other ways we have gone backwards because of the losses the party has suffered in elections at all levels..

    Now, even with many new members, finding able candidates to fight and win back council seats may well be much more difficult because of the party’s national standing, which will also reduce the number of potential parliamentary candidates. Here in Edinburgh, after serious losses at all levels in Scotland, including at Council level, we now have a 100% male council group with every remaining councillor being elected in one Parliamentary seat, Edinburgh West.

    If Willie, or the party, decide to impose an all woman short list in Edinburgh West, which used to have a Lib-Dem majority of over 13,000 when I was the MP, but was lost this year to the SNP and which should now be a top target seat to regain. The consequences of saying to the entire elected group of Councillors in Edinburgh that they are excluded from applying to be the candidate just because they are male, is a sure way to leave the seat in the hands of the SNP and their new female MP.

  • Richard Underhill 24th Aug '15 - 12:25pm

    Labour is different of course, but they have a female interim leader who did not stand for leader in 2010 or 2015.
    They have two male and two female candidates for leader, but opinion polling appears to show that a majority of female voters will be opting for a male candidate. It also seems likely that Labour’s next deputy leader will be male. The public sector trade unions have a large number of female members.
    As Scottish Liberal Democrats make their decisions, the federal party at conference will be asked to decide about the deputy leadership. Yes, please let us have a deputy leader such as Kirsty Williams, but please also understand what happened before.
    The constitution provided that MPs should have a leader in the same way that peers, MEPs, councillors, etc have leaders. Because the leader of the party must be an MP, the leader of the MPs self-designated deputy leader of the party, while being elected by the MPs. This may have helped with press releases, provided that the deputy leader was not rebelling against the leader.

  • Jane Ann Liston 24th Aug '15 - 12:29pm

    As an aside, while being a lawyer or a member of any other profession is usually a matter of personal choice, I wouldn’t stigmatise people for attending a private school, as they probably had very little say in the matter.

    The Fife Council LibDem group, without any quotas or positive discrimination, started out with 44% female in 1995. I don’t think it ever fell below 40%, and is now 50%, albeit of a group less than half the size of the first one. However, I was still deselected in favour of a newly-joined, male candidate, despite my 12 years service, similarly to what has happened in the North East of Scotland.

    I am certain that there is still an unconscious bias in favour of male candidates, hence the need for additional measures.

  • John Barret highlights the particular problem for the Liberal Democrats, which is that now more than ever we do not have ANY safe seats. In every single parliamentary seat we need every wind to blow in our favour in order to win.

    The Labour Party have been able to successfully pursue a women-only shortlist party because they have many safe seats where the local credentials of the candidate are irrelevant. In Edinburgh West however, it is pretty clear that someone with local credentials who many voters have already voted for in previous elections and who can get in the local press very easily, is going to have a big advantage over someone (whether male or female, LGBT, BAME or whatever) who does not have those local credentials. I notice the new SNP MP is both local and female, and seems top be intelligent and sensible admittedly on the basis only of SNP propaganda about her! I suspect she will be hard to dislodge… The chances of winning the Scottish parliament seat look a bit slim at the moment too!

    It is different in list seats in the Scottish parliament – Here I would be happy with some positive discrimination, but it is too late for 2016

    Personally I think that other things being equal, female candidates are more electable. Many years ago I was campaign manager for Barbara Pearce in Leeds NW. She was by far the best candidate in that election and I reckon that added a few % to her vote, but that was nothing like enough to stop the New Labour whirlwind in a seat where we were only just second. Personally the job of an MP does not appeal to me at all (despite being male, middle-aged, and middle class…). If you are a Liberal Democrat you have to risk your career and family just for a chance to get elected (unlike if your are a Labour candidate in a safe seat), and then you have to spend half your life far away in London with no job security. It amazes me that anyone wants to be a Liberal Democrat MP, and certainly does not surprise me that men that often see the disadvantages less clearly than women, as John Barrett mentions. I am very happy that there are both men and women willing to take on this thankless task!

    Our most winnable seat in 2020 is Cambridge. Does anyone seriously think we should impose a women-only shortlist there if Julian Huppert wants to stand again???

  • Apologies for my poor proof-reading in that last post!

  • David Evans 24th Aug '15 - 4:01pm

    I am in total agreement with John Barratt. The crisis the party faces is not a lack of female MPs, MSPs, AMs or councillors; it is a lack of Lib Dem MPs etc. It will be difficult enough to hold what we have now over the next few years, so we have to concentrate 100% on that. If we can gain an occasional by-election win as well that will be excellent.

    However, we must stop this ridiculous hyperbole where every article on LDV about equality is started with a comment like “I know the Liberal Democrats’ record on diversity is appalling.” Not only is it untrue, but it also provides ever more ammunition to those who want to do us down. In both 2010 and 2015 half of our candidates for seats where the sitting MP stood down, were women. We need to improve on BAME, but when suitable seats come up, like the Leicester South by-election we selected a good local candidate who won. We have to realise that the threat to the Lib Dems is to out very existence. The best candidate to win has to be chosen and the best people to decide that have to be the local members.

    Pretending “We” know better because “We” are concerned about under-representation is mere self indulgence. We are in a battle for our very existence. The sooner we all realise that the sooner we can start to fight back.

  • David Evans 24th Aug '15 - 4:02pm

    Apologies to John Barrett

  • John Barrett 24th Aug '15 - 6:05pm

    Jane – The reason I used lawyers in my post was that they are also an over-represented group in Westmister, as are privately educated boys from a few very posh schools, including Eton.

    Two other groups of people, both male and female, who are massively under-represented in Parliament are the disabled and the ‘working class’.

    If we replace one over-represented male group with a similar, but female group, it is not something that, on its own, will change much for anyone.

    Good candidates regardless of gender, race or anything else will be needed if we are to make an impact in future elections and we should be more concerned about including the best candidates, rather than ruling out anyone with the ability who might apply for any winnable seat.

    Andrew is correct. If anyone has a good chance of winning back Cambridge, it would be Julian – if he wants to go for it. If other candidates also want to throw their hats into the ring, that makes perfect sense.

    Ruling him out of the race because he was a man would be bonkers.

  • Ruth Bright 24th Aug '15 - 6:33pm

    These discussions are always diverted into the supposed deficiencies of middle class female candidates ie they are middle class and won’t make any difference so we may as well keep standing middle class men! Perhaps we should shoot the fox of those who always divert these discussions onto social class by suggesting that in any held seat in 2020 where the incumbent retires there should be a BME, female, working class candidate (though how on earth you define working class I don’t know John Barrett). There are only likely to be two or three such turnover seats so perhaps we could manage it.

  • @Ruth Bright
    I’m not certain if that comment was meant to be sarcastic or not, but I can’t help wondering if that is something that you should do, or perhaps ANY female low income candidate.

  • Ruth Bright yes there seems to be an assumption that educated, middle-class females are no different from educated, middle class men, so let’s just stick with men, unless of course we can find a low-paid, poorly-educated, black, transgender, wheelchair-bound person living in social housing. It’s an ingenious way of keeping women down.

  • Ruth Bright 24th Aug '15 - 7:58pm

    Chris – I really did mean it! The socio-economic categorising is an impossibility though. I am a female approved candidate. tick. My income is nought. tick. I am the ninth child of a bricklayer. tick. Do the last two make me non middle class? I don’t think so. There is no meaningful way of measuring this stuff.

  • @Phyllis
    Well, the Party has shown itself not to be fit for purpose when it comes to equality, so why not do something like that? It really would be a “put up or shut up” plan.

  • Chris_sh It’s funny you should say that because on another thread, people have been suggestion pithy one-liners to define what the Party stands for and one word which comes up time and again is “Equality”. !

  • @Ruth Bright
    I’m not a particularly political person so I don’t really get the definitions of what is working/middle/upper class , so I don’t really know how hard it would be.

    Having said that, surely it is not beyond the wit of the Party to come up with some way of selecting some one. E.g. There is a difference between some one on no/low income because mummy and daddy are funding their political ambitions and someone on a low income sat on a production line putting glue blobs on widgets. (p.s. I’m not trying to suggest that you are one of the former).

  • A Social Liberal 24th Aug '15 - 8:43pm

    Given that our parliamentary party has so little representation of low income groups then I suggest that we have an all low income shortlist policy. In the same way we should have all disability short lists.

    Or rather not – discriminating against other groups by allowing only one access to shortlisting is just as bigoted as mysogeny.

  • Interestingly, the only time Lib Dems start being concerned about the lack of working class/disabled/BAME/transgender MPs at Westminster is when the issue of all women short lists or quotas is brought up. Then suddenly every minority group has to have equality before women get a look-in.

  • @Phyllis
    I did see that thread, I wasn’t eating breakfast so didn’t choke on my cornflakes. 😉

  • The brightest idea I have ever seen! Well, wait a minute, how about an all-black list? Or, better even, an all-black-female list? Ah, here’s the most Liberal solution: an all-black-lesbian list!

  • A Social Liberal 24th Aug '15 - 10:34pm

    Phyllis

    Allow me to correct your mistake in comprehension – I was not arguing for shortlists for any minority group but arguing against any shortlist – this despite my being disabled and on disability benefits !

  • A Social Liberal 24th Aug '15 - 10:49pm

    Sorry Phyllis, but I’ve just reread your post. Women don’t get a look in? Tell me – in the last parliament tell me how many women MPs were there compared with disabled peoplle? Or people who have left a job of low income?

    Whilst there has been a rise to 30% in the number of women MPs there has been a drop in those MPs who consider themselves disabled. There are no numbers I can find of MPs who entered parliament from low income jobs. Given that women are the highest represented group (short of men) in parliament, wouldn’t it be more liberal to argue for better representation of those others I have mentioned?

  • @A Social Liberal
    Surely it doesn’t matter how many women/disabled/bme etc are in Parliament, what matters is how many are in the Lib Dem Party.

    Compared to the 3 main parties, the Lib Dems seem to be far behind, yet the Party often seems to claim that it is the champion of diversity. How long is it since Thatcher became the Conservative Leader (about 40 years I think), Beckett was D/Leader of Labour in the early 90s and briefly acted as leader, Harman has been acting leader twice now I think.

    There does seem to be a culture problem here when it comes to women. As medicine goes short list leave a foul taste, but they may help to drag the Lib Dem Party into the 20th Century and I’m glad Farron is trying to sort it out.

  • Women make up 51% of the population though so they are not a minority group. However they are massively under-represented.

  • Chris_sh
    It absolutely does matter how many women, disabled, bme, and working class there are in parliament and to say it doesn’t shows a very blinkered one dimensional approach to diversity. However, the Lib Dems have done much more than any other party over the last few years to address gender balance and have done so through its own natural procedures and not by having to force through false manipulations such as all female shortlists to achieve a just result.

    As a result in 2015, in the eleven seats I can see where the sitting MP stood down, six had women selected and five had men. In 2010 iirc, it was five all. Sadly in 2015 all our newly selected candidates lost in appallingly difficult circumstances, but even in 2010 all the new female candidates lost. I’m afraid when it comes to selecting women in winnable seats those who say we have a problem, like you, are just ignoring the key facts. Without a doubt there is more to do, but that is in the area of getting new candidates elected and not in selecting candidates. It is simply wrong, and actually damaging to the party to keep playing the same old broken record.

  • Like most people here I find it embarrassing that we have no female MP’s. And I do not agree with John Barrett that replacing white middle class male MP’s with white middle class female MP’s would make no difference. It may not be fashionable to talk about differences between men and women, but in my opinion men and women often react differently to situations, and to represent society properly there should be approximately equal numbers of men and women in the House of Commons. However I do suspect that one of those differences is that the current male-dominated political world is unattractive to many women in the way it is organised, so the first thing to do is to recognise that fully and look at all the institutions of the party (including the idea that only people who give up a whole week of their life to go to conference have a right to be heard! How ridiculous!). That way we will get more women putting themselves forward as candidates, and indeed joining the party. What is the gender balance on the approved candidate list? That is the first thing I would look at. We need to put our house in order and get rid of the casual sexism that many women have highlighted on other threads. It should be as unacceptable as racism or smoking indoors.

    But I am against women-only shortlists. The end does not justify the means and this means is a completely undemocratic and illiberal approach to the problem, absolutely typical of the Labour Party. We already have a policy that every shortlist must include a woman. From what people say that did in fact generate approximately equal numbers of candidates of each gender in target seats, including where the MP retired. If we had not done so badly in the 2015 election we would have improved the number of women MP’s. We need to look carefully at why local parties favour men from their shortlist, if indeed they do. We should look at paying for childcare for candidates in target seats, for example, so that both men and women with those responsibilities have an equal chance to go out campaigning compared to those who do not.

    AWS have caused big problems for the Labour Party on several occasions when local parties have gone on strike or even stood an independent candidate. The electorate (even women) are still quite strongly opposed to them https://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/08/28/across-the-board-opposition-all-women-shortlists/. Can we afford such problems in a target seat in current circumstances?

  • Ruth Bright 25th Aug '15 - 2:45pm

    David Evans I don’t really know why but many of those women were selected late, many simply did not have time to establish themselves and give themselves at least a ghost of a chance of avoiding the carnage in 2015.It is simply untrue that the party has done more than any other party to support women candidates. To my knowledge two Labour candidates stood in 2015 in late pregnancy; the idea that this would happen in the Lib Dems is a joke. We have no provision whatsoever for support or even 24 hours leave for PPCs who have a baby! Since the vast majority of women have children this is more than a minor problem.

  • @David Evans
    This is a Lib Dem Site talking about a Lib Dem issue, talking about Parliament as a whole is an attempt at diversion.

    Now you say I’m ignoring some facts, so why don’t I throw one in your direction. If we say that in normal circumstances that a nomination to a held seat or a 20%.

  • @David Evans (don’t know what happened above, half the comment is missing?)
    This is a Lib Dem Site talking about a Lib Dem issue, talking about Parliament as a whole is an attempt at diversion.

    Now you say I’m ignoring some facts, so why don’t I throw one in your direction. If we say that in normal circumstances that a nomination to a held seat or a 20%.

  • @David Evans – I’ll try one last time!
    @David Evans
    This is a Lib Dem Site talking about a Lib Dem issue, talking about Parliament as a whole is an attempt at diversion.

    Now you say I’m ignoring some facts, so why don’t I throw one in your direction. If we say that in normal circumstances that a nomination to a held seat or a “under 10%” marginal gives a fighting chance of election, we find that only 26 (15%) of your female candidates were contesting these seats. This compares to 50% for the Conservatives and 66% for Labour, so how can you possibly think that your attempts have been better than the other parties?

    These figures are important, you had 3 more female candidates that the Conservative Party (166 to 163), but half of their candidates were near the “top”, neither of your parties enforce female only shortlists yet they’re managing to give a lot more women the chance of election, 68% of your female candidates were in seats where the margin was “greater than 20%”.

  • Nick Collins 25th Aug '15 - 4:13pm

    Is this a revival of a sketch from “The league of Gentlemen”?

    “This is a local shop for local people. …”

  • @Nick Collins

    Lol, probably sounds that way – but if that’s what it takes!

  • Richard Underhill 25th Aug '15 - 4:29pm

    Phyllis 25th Aug ’15 – 6:54am “Women make up 51% of the population though so they are not a minority group.”
    Within the party and within the electorate it does not follow that women voters will support women candidates.

  • David Evans 25th Aug '15 - 6:08pm

    Ruth, I’m sorry, but I fear you seem to be clutching at straws. I haven’t seen any evidence that women were selected late. Indeed when LDV Stephen Tall reported on candidate selection in October 2013, all of the three seats that had selected a replacement candidate had selected women. So the men had less time. As for your knowledge that “two Labour candidates stood in 2015 in late pregnancy” and that “the idea that this would happen in the Lib Dems is a joke,” is simply unsubstantiated. Can you point to any situations where a Lib Dem candidate has been de-selected because she was pregnant? If there have been any, I for one would totally agree with you that the local party should be called to account, but I haven’t heard of any, so I presume it hasn’t ever happened. Can you provide any detail?

    Finally your comment “We have no provision whatsoever for support or even 24 hours leave for PPCs who have a baby!” What do you expect? Local activists, without exception, support their candidates to the best of their abilities throughout. Have we had any candidates in target seats refused help when they were pregnant? I haven’t heard of any, but again you may know of some.

  • Ruth Bright 25th Aug '15 - 7:28pm

    Hi David I stood down as PPC because my local party wanted to hold the selection meeting close to my due date and when the selection date was changed it was treated as a great favour instead of a basic human right not to fight for your “job”from a maternity ward! I consider what happened to be the equivalent of constructive dismissal ie “when an employee resigns because of the employer creating a hostile work environment”. I have bored on about this so often on LDV and raised it in so many places I am amazed I still have to bring it up but there you go.

    Dinti Batstone did an interesting report on female councillors being treated badly when they had babies but most of the women wanted to remain anonymous and I think her good work therefore went to waste.

  • John Barrett 26th Aug '15 - 12:08am

    Ruth – It should not be assumed that early selection of a candidate is the positive factor the campaigns department have always insisted it is.

    When an MP announces they are standing down early in a Parliament, the challenging party always realises this is their best opportunity to win the seat and then selects a top class candidate to fight it. They then throw lots of money and resources into the seat over a long period of time, sometimes at a level we cannot match.

    In some cases the retiring MP takes their foot off the gas as it is their final term and they leave the work to the new younger and keen PPC who can start to get their teeth into the campaign and increase their own workload. The support for the party sometimes does not hold up as it might do, as in many seats with established MPs we have built up significant personal votes.

    The press and media coverage of even the best PPC is often only a fraction of what a well established and experienced MP can get and the task of holding the seat becomes more difficult. PPCs rarely get any television coverage.

    A late announcement of retiral with the sitting MP working flat out up to the last minute, with the transition being made in the year before the election can be made to work.

    By then the A List candidates and resources of other parties have been allocated to other seats. Their target lists have been agreed and do not include the seat where they do not expect the MP to be standing down. The media profile of the party and press coverage of the sitting MP can continue at a higher level for longer and the reputation of the Lib-Dem hard working MP is more easily transferred on to their potential successor, as most people are not members of any party, but are impressed by the right person for the job.

    At the 2010 General Election, the only two Liberal Democrat seats with retiring MPs to be held by the party were Edinburgh West and Cambridge where David Howarth and I were the last two sitting MPs to announce they were standing down. In 2015 no seats with retiring MPs were held by the party.

    Despite this experience and having shared this with the campaigns department, it appears that we have learned nothing.

  • Ruth, I am very sad that you stood down as PPC because your local party could not/did not accommodate you in the way you expected so close to your due date. I hope you formally complained to the national party about it at the time, if only so it can be examined and learned from. That would give us the best chance to make sure that your comment “the idea that this would happen in the Lib Dems is a joke,” is not true in the future.

  • Thanks David – I did complain but gave up partly because my son didn’t sleep through the night for 15 months and I didn’t have the energy to fight anymore.

    John – thank you, what you say about selection timing is fascinating. We need some thorough research on this, also on attrition rates for female candidates. Anecdotal evidence tells me that more women than men stand for the Lib Dems in only a single election? I wonder if that is true and if so why?

  • Julie Maxon 29th Aug '15 - 6:48pm

    We might want to improve gender balance but I personally don’t like the idea of AWS. We might feel women have been discriminated against in the past but surely AWS is discrimination in itself. What message does it give to someone who has perhaps been working hard within their local party/ community for the last few years and might have been thinking of standing as a candidate but who is now going to be told, sorry, you can’t, because we’re now discriminating against you – you’re not a woman. We shouldn’t be discriminating against anyone, whether female, male, non binary.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Aug '15 - 8:06pm

    Julie, you make a good point. Personally I think there is a flaw in leaving selection just to local party members, so I don’t mind some soft quota system, but yes the “foot to the floor” approach with quotas might have worked in Labour, but it’s still controversial within the party and it always seems to be even more controversial in a liberal party.

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